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Adventure Best Gear Guns & Gear Optics Reviews

Head to Head Review: Best Spotting Scopes of 2013

by Eric R. Poole & David Faubion   |  August 26th, 2013 10

This test isn’t all-inclusive. We attempted to obtain a sample from every known manufacturer. In the end, we were provided with more than $40,000 in optics for a comprehensive roundup that’s never been attempted by another hunting or shooting publication.

To keep a level playing field, this test was designed to compare spotting scopes that featured 80mm or larger objectives and an angled eyepiece. A number of well-regarded brands were left 
out for not meeting these requirements, which left us with the 14 contenders you will find discussed in this gallery.

For neutrality while performing this evaluation, we set out to provide the consumer with a measureable guide. A spotting scope can be a once-in-a-lifetime investment for many, so 
making an informed decision before the point of sale is critical.

The specific features of each spotting scope such as country of origin, eyepiece magnification range, objective diameter, length, weight, exit pupil, eye relief, and field of view were not taken into consideration to determine the final score since each of these details can be subject to a user’s preference. 
Instead, we analyzed perceived qualities like color fringing, edge sharpness, usable magnification, and resolution, which can be more difficult for the consumer to quantify.

As we discovered, what you can afford does not necessarily meet the needs of quality or value you may seek. Therefore, this test included two respected optic resolution tests as a measurable and repeatable control. A MIL-STD optics resolution test chart (1951 USAF) and an industrial magnification range test were used as scientific controls in determining the quality of detail provided by each scope. Each of these tested the resolving power against groups of horizontal and vertical bars. The smallest bars the imager can discern is the limitation of its resolving power.

Rather than attempt to describe in infinitesimal detail each optic, we will introduce each with a brief synopsis 
followed by our sincere appraisal. Here’s the best spotting scopes of 2013.

  • Bryan Martin

    This is a very interesting article. Thanks for the unbiased information. It was informative and should be very useful to readers.

  • Stan

    While all the optics reviewed are really great, get real and get practical. 95% of your readers will NEVER shell out 2 to 3 grand plus for a spotting scope. Review more realistically priced scopes that the average hunter will buy and use….there are several. Also, I found none of the in camp practical jokes funny. here in Texas, a lot of hunters have on sidearms…the evil clown routine could get you killed

    • iamcurious

      I understand they have advertisers to keep happy so I won’t fault them. I’ve owned 40-50 guns in my life and the most expensive was $550. I’m not even going to consider a spotting scope at that price. Recently, I decided I wanted one for range shooting, 50/100 yds, possibly 200 yds under some lighting and contrast conditions. Researched heavily and bought a 20-60X60mm new for $75 that fills the bill just fine. I don’t worship at the altar of fine optics, just need a clear view of targets at those ranges. In my economic bracket, I have to weigh the costs of things against their useful value and make judgements accordingly.

      • Don Schaer

        And what is the make and model of your $75.00 gem?

        • iamcurious

          Barska Colorado 20-60x60WP. There are or were about 3 very similar models that could be mistaken for each other. Specifically, I’m referring to the model # CO11216. I’m quite satisfied with mine and I’m glad I researched it before purchase. Look for my review in the Oct.-Nov. 2013 time frame on Amazon. I hope it helps you and others.

          • Don Schaer


    • IDhuntr

      These ARE realistic scopes for hunters out west. Plenty of hunters are willing to pay these prices for optics, because those of us who spend enough time in the field realize that quality optics show the quality of animal from a long distance and help us conserve our time and efforts for the animal we want. When watching animals from up to a couple miles out, only the best will do. The reviews were great and unbiased. Thanks for the helpful information.

      • Leonard

        These ARE NOT realistic scopes for hunters be it in the North or out West. 1: Real hunters do not carry more weight than they need, most of these scopes weigh more than 4-7lbs which could be taken up with precious food and water. 2: Unless these scopes can see 1/2 mile through mist and fog then they’re a waste of time, detail doesn’t come into it, unless, you hunt on fine sunny days only – which tbh doesn’t make you a real hunter. 3: Scopes this large get caught on fauna unless its packed deep in your pack – which voids the reason why you have it in the first place. etc etc. These scopes are for bird watchers of either species – price and weight dont come into it for those reasons. Though one thing I do agree with IDhuntr, the reviews are great and unbiased. Thanks…

  • Jim

    Fix the frame overlay on the advertising video window. Cannot read any of the write-ups.

  • Wayno1

    What do these people think we are? Wealthy stockbrokers. I can’t afford to throw around 3 grand plus on a spotting scope.
    This article was of NO use to me in a practical way.

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